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Filip Zadina is an interesting option, but is he a fit for the Maple Leafs?

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Photo credit:© Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
9 months ago
Whenever a good player is made available cheap it’s probably worth taking a minute or two to determine who exactly has hit the open market. Filip Zadina is making a giant bet on himself that he can outperform his NHL resume to date, and that is truly admirable. While there are plenty of reasons to be overly excited for a 23 year old, former 6th overall pick hitting the market and trying to live up to that 6th overall billing, there is also something to be said for a career best year of 74 games, 10 goals, and 24 points in four attempts. Still, Zadina and a major focal when the summer hockey news drastically slows down, so let’s see if he’s a fit.
The past three years have certainly not been kind to Zadina and until he proves otherwise it is important to establish his floor. Zadina should have his offensive numbers well above his defensive ones because no one is looking to him becoming a 200 foot player. He’s in it for the points and the points haven’t been coming. He’s been throwing hits and blocking shots more than you’d expect him to and I think that’s speaking to his desire to do what it takes to stay in the lineup, but it’s likely that if his performance improves these numbers will decline or at the very least stay steady. His icetime has been declining over the past two seasons, and Zadina’s icetime with top six linemates seemed to be non-existent. His most frequent linemates were Joe Veleno, Pius Suter, and Oskar Sundqvist, so two other players the Red Wings let walk to free agency and another former first round pick that the Red Wings have seen fizzle so far in his career. No one is going to gift him a spot on their top line to see what he can do, but the Leafs could potentially be on track to have a third line with some offensive talent that can push Zadina beyond what he’s exhibited so far. That’s still a big if.
There’s also something to be said for the Maple Leafs already having a low cost project winger to work with. He’s younger and still more of an unknown than Zadina, but he also comes in cheaper and doesn’t require waivers if things don’t work out. Depth is great, but this might be needlessly blocking a player. The appeal of Zadina over Robertson might come down to Zadina’s price, if the Leafs intend to move Robertson, or just simply the allure of Zadina’s top of the draft pedigree and “I’m going to bet on myself” attitude puts him on the radar.
On a microstat level Zadina is a mixed bag and in some ways that points to some promise. He’s doing a lot of things right and achieving some results, but he hasn’t been given the supporting cast to achieve what he is looking to do. The struggle with zone entries is likely the biggest concern from a Leafs perspective as puck possession and control has been king in Toronto and isn’t likely to change. The limitations of his retrievals in the defensive zone is surprising, but he did fare a lot better when it came to exits.
The story around Zadina’s PDO certainly speaks to there being some room for improvement in a new situation:
SeasonOn-Ice SH%On-Ice SV%PDO
201820192.8692.130.95
201920207.1492.190.993
202020217.3294.121.014
202120227.1390.480.976
202220234.4993.410.979
Oddly enough he’s been privy to some outstanding on-ice save percentage numbers while in Detroit and that makes the on-ice shooting percentage and PDO numbers even more telling that there could be some offense unlocked in a new situation. Last season, Zadina had an individual shooting percent of 6%, his best in three years.
When it comes to whether Zadina could be a fit on the Leafs there are a handful of intangible and tangible things to consider.
With the Leafs committing to Tyler Bertuzzi as their biggest free agent signing, it will likely matter what he thinks of his former teammate from Detroit and it’s entirely possible that Zadina might equally be disinterested in the Leafs due to Bertuzzi.
There is the possible benefit of having a veteran Czech player around for Zadina and David Kampf could be that player. Obviously there are a number of veteran Czech players around the league, but it could be a factor.
The role and the pressure of the market are going to be factors for Zadina. He might prefer being able to play a bigger role on a lottery bound team rather than fighting for icetime on a contender. He might prefer to work out his game in a market that won’t see 30 microphones thrown in his face after every questionable game.
From the Leafs point of view, Zadina might be too much of a project to take on when there are already a number of new faces, a coach on the hot seat, and a commitment to being a tougher team to play against.
Like most things it will also come down to money. Zadina has already left $4.5M on the table and there are rumours of multiple teams being interested in him. That probably doesn’t point to him being a league minimum guy, but instead I’d imagine he hovers right over the $1.15M buriable contract amount, with Zadina preferring that teams get stuck with a bit of a cap hit if he gets sent down.
While it’s hard to see Zadina as a pressing need or a perfect fit for the Leafs, his upside is hard to ignore and the type of player that good teams should be willing to take chances on, especially when their prospect pool becomes increasingly shallow.
More than the Robertson comparison above, the thing that I’d want to consider is whether or not it is worth missing out on a potential steal in Filip Zadina because you wanted to hold a roster spot for Sam Lafferty.
Data sourced from Evolving Hockey, Natural Stat Trick, All Three Zones.

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